STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
Is the U.S. government offering a reimbursement program for drivers if they enter their ZIP code on a website? No, that's not true: A self-described advertising marketplace website called Citizen Save Trust released videos promoting such a program. The videos combined out-of-context clips of White House press secretary Jen Psaki and a U.S. president, giving the false impression that the reimbursement program was created and implemented by the federal government. However, Lead Stories found no evidence that the program even exists.
The claim appeared in the caption of several Facebook videos like this one (archived here) published on December 30, 2021, by Citizen Save Trust. Each video featured a split-screen: At the top, there was a clip of Psaki discussing direct deposits to Americans and at the bottom, there was a clip of a U.S. president signing a document. The caption reads:
This was highlighted on the news yesterday. My close friend sent a text to me this morning and told me about the news for drivers. All I did was enter my zip to confirm my driving details and now I am getting $725. It only took 70 seconds! Just Enter Zip
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Jan 7 20:48 2022 UTC)
The top clip of Psaki is from a White House press briefing held on March 11, 2021, taken from her overview of monetary relief sent via direct deposit to eligible Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The full video of the press conference is here. The portion related to the direct deposits begins at the 3:53 mark, with the exact clip used in the advertisement beginning at the 4:03 mark.
The bottom clip features a figure who appears to be President Joe Biden -- as evidenced by a tie he's worn that's similar to the one in the clip, shown here, here and here -- and is not explained in the context of the advertisement, either.
A page (archived here) on the Citizen Safe Trust website features a "News Alert" that goes into further detail about the alleged reimbursement program, saying that the program is "the biggest reimbursement program for drivers in the last 20 years." However, there is no evidence that such a program exists. Lead Stories used the Google search engine for results for "national driver reimbursement program," "safe driver program" and "$725 driver reimbursement" and did not find any program like the one described by the ad. Despite its page featuring a "News Alert," Citizen Safe Trust has a "Disclosure" page stating that the website is "An Advertising Marketplace For Companies Who Provide Consumers Quotes" and is not a news platform.
In an email to Lead Stories on January 7, 2022, a spokesperson for the National Motorists Association told Lead Stories that the organization had no information about such a driver reimbursement program. We also reached out to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the claim, whose spokesperson referred us to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
In an email to Lead Stories on January 10, 2022, Jay Mayfield, senior public affairs specialist for the FTC, told us that while the agency cannot confirm whether the claim is true, FTC data shows that government impersonation scams have increased in recent years, especially social media scams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayfield added:
Apologies that we can't give a definitive answer on this, but we do encourage consumers to look skeptically at claims about government programs when the source of those claims is not a government agency.
Lead Stories previously debunked a similar claim that advertised a nationwide reimbursement program for drivers who have had no driving under the influence offenses in the past three years. That fact check can be found here.
2022-01-10T21:03:10Z 2022-01-10T21:03:10ZAdds quote from FTC.